A woman wrote this week asking that I address the subject of irresponsible pet owners who do not clean up after their pets. Some time back, someone requested that I cover this subject in reference to people who use Green Valley Park and leave large or small deposits. For those of us who try to be responsible, or those who do not own a dog, it is annoying to have to face and walk around the irresponsibility of others.
I often wonder what pet owners think when allowing their dogs to leave deposits in the yards of others. Who do they think will clean it up? Who do they think should pick up after their dog. How do they feel when a neighbor's dog uses their yard for this purpose? It just doesn't make sense. But then, I guess these are the same people who throw litter out the car window without thinking about how it looks and who will have to pick up after them. Irresponsibility shows itself in many ways.
There are those who allow their dogs to relieve themselves on the sidewalk or road. People out walking to enjoy the beauty of this place have to face this unsightly view and watch to avoid stepping in it. Disgusting.
Once you get into the habit of picking up after your dog, it is relatively painless. Small plastic sandwich bags are easy to carry in the pocket. When needed, you turn it inside out over your hand, scoop up the mess and deposit it in the nearest garbage receptacle.
The size of the bag required is directly determined by the quality of dog food that you are feeding. A cheap, poor quality food passes through the dog with a small percentage being digested. The rest is filler with no nutritional value. You must feed much more of a poor quality food. It makes sense to feed a higher quality food where there is less waste. And the resulting piles are so much smaller and easier to deal with.
Page through a dog magazine and you will see a clever variety of tools and accessories to make cleaning up easier. Some gadgets attach to the leash or your belt and dispense bags as needed. There are rakes and shovels specifically designed for this task, and though these are a bit cumbersome to carry on a walk, they work well in the yard. You see people walking with the plastic bags from the grocery store sticking out of their pockets. I used to use the bags that the newspaper came in. It seemed a good recyclable use for these bags. But they do remain in the landfill for a huge number of years whereas they can be recycled at the stores and reused for another purpose. The small sandwich bags work great.
In a pet owner's yard, cleaning up is essential if the yard is to be enjoyed by children and families. Imagine if we just left it all to build up for years. Yuck.
Cleaning up our own yard is not something that we really enjoy. We do not get up on a Saturday morning and say, "Wow. I get to pick up dog messes today." But we do it because it needs doing. How can we think that it is fair to pass that duty on to our neighbors? If we do not enjoy picking up after our own dog, though we do it, why should we have to pick up after someone elses.
This is not a subject that people enjoy talking about. But it is a subject that causes friction between neighbors, causes our streets and parks to be unsightly and makes motels, rest areas and other public places across the country decide not to allow pets. Each dog owner needs to assume responsibility for the deposits of their own dogs.
In rural areas, it sometimes is not necessary to pick up the deposit. And if it is left on the ground, it will deteriorate in time, much faster than in a plastic bag in a landfill, but the pile must be scattered where it will be totally out of view. So many walking trails have been closed to dogs because people leave these unsightly piles in plain view. It is totally inconsiderate and it leads to rules that affect responsible pet owners. Who has that right? More and more public places are not allowing dogs for this very reason.
Dog parks work very hard enforcing the clean up rules. They provide bags and depositories -- and park visitors monitor each other. If you do not clean up after your dog in a dog park, you will not be welcome.
No one is too important or too busy to assume this responsibility. We who enjoy traveling and having our pets with us suffer because of those who feel they are just too good to stoop to such a task. Once you stoop a few times however, you realize it is not so bad and you really can feel good about being a responsible pet owner who cares about his neighbors, his neighborhood, his community and his country.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.